Beth PrestonA Philosophy of Material Culture: Action, Function, and Mind

Routledge, 2012

by Carrie Figdor on February 15, 2013

Beth Preston

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Many philosophers have written on the ways in which human beings produce artifacts and on the nature of artifacts themselves, often distinguishing the act of producing or making from growing, and distinguishing artifacts from natural objects. However, such discussions have tended to be theoretically restrictive – for example, in philosophy of technology, the focus is primarily on non-religious and non-artistic artifacts. In A Philosophy of Material Culture: Action, Function and Mind (Routledge 2012), Professor Beth Preston of the University of Georgia provides a foundation for understanding material culture in general – indeed, she uses the phrase “item of material culture” to avoid the restrictive connotations of “artifact”. Preston approaches her subject from two basic vantage points: the philosophy of action, to consider the nature of production and use of material culture, and the philosophy of function, to consider the nature of the items that are produced and used. In doing so she breaks new ground in understanding collaboration and improvisation, and draws on work on biological and system functions to develop a concept of ‘function’ appropriate to understanding the functions of the items we make and use.

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